Skip to content

10 ways travel has changed in the last 10 years

Collage of travel images from around the world

I’ve been spending time in two different time periods this week. On one hand I’ve been planning my upcoming trip around the US in April. Then on the other I’ve been scanning photos and working on articles to celebrate it being 10 years since I did my big 16-month round-the-world trip through Asia and Australia. Looking at the two together, I can’t help comparing them. And when I do the one thing that really stands out is how much travel has changed, even in such a relatively short time. The way I plan my trips, the transport I take, the ways I stay in touch – they’ve all changed massively since 2003. But is all that progress good? Here’s my verdict on the 10 ways travel has changed for me over the last 10 years.

Sand dunes near Exmouth in Western Australia

On the sand dunes near Esperance in Western Australia 10 years ago

1. Travel agents

When I booked my RTW trip in 2003 it involved spending hours in a travel agency desperately trying to combine my travel wishlist and my budget. The extent of my route planning was looking at a map of the world. In 2013 there’s so much more information available to help you plan your trip. But trying to get your head around airline schedules and comparing flights can be an organisational nightmare.

Verdict: a win for 2013, though I think I’d still use a specialist travel agency to book complex RTW tickets.

2. Low-cost airlines

Although low-cost airlines had already taken off (so to speak) in 2003, they were mainly limited to European destinations and the network was pretty small. They could be real bargain though. In 2013 the network has grown hugely and extended across Asia and now even into Africa. The £1 flights are long gone though and they often cost more than a normal flight when you add up all the hidden charges.

Verdict: I’d call this a draw, as although the expanded networks mean that it’s easier to get around, the complex pricing, strict baggage rules and airports in the middle of nowhere are the downsides.

Train from Goa to Delhi in India

If there had been a budget Indian airline in 2003 would I have still done this 48-hour train trip?

3. Keeping in touch

In 2003 keeping in touch with home involved finding an internet café and paying for a couple of hours of painfully slow dial-up internet access to send a weekly email to my parents. In 2013 you’ve got no excuse not to keep in touch. Wifi, smartphones, Facebook and Twitter mean you can be as connected on the road as you are at home and make it easy to arrange meet ups and keep in touch with people on the road.

Verdict: another win for 2013, though you might not think it when you get Facebook stalked by that boring guy you once shared a hostel room with or your mum sees you tagged in a hideous drunken photo.

4. Working abroad

In 2013 if you have a laptop, decent wifi and a flexible job you can work from anywhere. A growing band of ‘digital nomads’ travel indefinitely by working on the road, earning UK/USA wages and living cheaply abroad. But in 2003 the concept didn’t exist. If you wanted to earn money on your travels you needed to work locally. Job options were usually bar work, fruit picking or teaching English and your wages were in the local currency – enough to extend your travels for a few months, but hard to live on full-time.

Verdict: a definite win for 2013, as anything that lets you travel more has to be a good thing.

The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park

The strange rock formations of The Pinnacles in Western Australia – if only I’d had a DSLR then

5. Photography

In 2003 I had a compact film camera, alternated taking photos with my friend in case we lost our cameras (we got through two each), got two copies of each film printed, sent them home and kept the negatives separately. Film processing was pricey so we only took a couple of shots in each place and you never really knew what you’d get til much later (usually involving a few inebriated shots you couldn’t remember taking). In 2013 I travel with a DSLR, I take almost as many photos in a week than I did in my whole RTW trip, delete the bad ones as I go along then spend hours sorting and editing them back home.

Verdict: a win for 2013 – although we’ve lost the anticipation of waiting too see your pictures, my photography has improved hugely by being able to take lots of shots and try things out.

6. Technology

I didn’t even carry a phone in 2003 until I got to Australia, then I had a cheap pay-as-you-go handset to help with job hunting. Now I always pack my smartphone, Kindle, camera and sometimes bring my laptop along too. And where you have technology you have a whole bag of wires and adapters to go along with them. But as my phone probably costs more than the entire contents of my backpack did 10 years ago, bringing all this technology along does come with a few security worries.

Verdict: a win for convenience, but a lose for the higher travel insurance premiums and heavier bags.


Postcards – photo by Elisa Dudnikova on Flickr

7. Postcards

In 2003 I packed my address book and searched out post offices all across the world to send postcards home. My gran got one from each of the countries I visited and most of my friends got at least one. But I can’t remember the last time I got a postcard. With email and social media the postcard had almost died out – though the new ByPost app that lets you send them from your phone might start a renaissance.

Verdict: I miss getting postcards (or any post other than bills) so I’ll call this a win for 2003.

8. A taste of the exotic

In 2003 I lived in London so could go out and eat food from all around the world. But if you wanted to cook it yourself you had to find an ethnic supermarket or send off for mail-order ingredients. In 2013 I can buy fresh lemongrass and galangal in my local supermarket, Thai and Mexican restaurants are as common as Indian and Chinese, and there are cookery books and classes on hundreds of cuisines.

Verdict: I love reliving my travels by cooking food from around the world so this is a definite win for 2013.

Balinese food, Indonesia

Delicious Balinese food

9. Where to go… and where not to

Ten years ago SARS was peaking in Hong Kong, Kuta in Bali had been bombed and a huge earthquake hit the Silk Road in Iran, putting them on the Foreign Office’s warning list and taking them off my travel list. But in 2013 they are safe to visit but others like Mali and Algeria now aren’t. The world’s political situation is always changing and there are even countries that didn’t exist in 2003 – like Kosovo and Montenegro.

Verdict: Some destinations win here, some lose, so this has to be a draw.

10. Travel blogging

In 2003 I don’t think I’d even heard of a travel blog. The nearest I got was sending out monthly group emails about my latest exploits to my friends and family. In 2013 blogging is a huge part of my life. I spend hours every day reading and writing blogs and whenever I travel I’m constantly snapping away and on the lookout for things that’ll make a good post. Blogging is well and truly part of my travel life.

Verdict: as a travel blogger it has to be a win 2013, though sometimes it’d be nice to totally switch off, step away from the laptop and completely relax on holiday without thinking about my next post.

Promenade Plantee elvated park, Paris, France

Paris’ Promenade Plantée – a travel blogging discovery that became my post popular post

So it looks like all in all it’s better to be travelling in 2013. Do you agree? And what changes over the years do you love or hate?

31 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great post Lucy! And I have to agree with 7, It is a shame about the postcards.

    February 14, 2013
    • It is isn’t it? I might have to start sending a few again.

      February 19, 2013
  2. I stopped sending postcards when I realised how much money it was costing us to send cards home that in many cases never even arrived.

    February 14, 2013
    • There is that – I think my record was one that took four months to arrive!

      February 19, 2013
  3. This is a great post Lucy. I think travel is so much more accessible to so many more people nowadays which is good but on the other hand places change so much once tourism hits town – a double-edged sword.
    I devoted a whole blog post to the ByPost app because I think it’s so fab!

    February 14, 2013
    • That’s very true – there are a few places I visited in Asia 10 years ago that were really unspoilt then but are major tourist resorts now. It’d be really interesting to see how other places have changed too – I can see a new post series coming on with photos taken back in the same place 10 years on!

      February 19, 2013
  4. I love that we can now send emails and carry our own computer rather than the slow dial up cafes! I remember being mugged in South America and losing my address book. Not only did I lose all the postal addresses for my friends, but my small collection of email addresses too! Fast forward to today and everyone’s address is saved by my email provider and I can instantly download my photos and send them around the world! Love it. Still send the occasional postcard, especially if I am gone for more than a week or two. I did find it a challenge to find someone to sell me just one stamp while in rural Spain, but luckily there was no shortage of beautiful postcards to choose from!
    Love how you have looked back between then and now…it is amazing how our travel lives have changed!

    February 14, 2013
    • Ten years sounds like such a short amount of time but so many things have changed – especially with technology. I definitely don’t miss dial up connections and internet cafes though, and its so much easier to store things electronically rather than a huge print out of papers!

      February 19, 2013
  5. I was never a great post card sender but I still like to buy them and bring them home amongst my souvenirs and I often scan them into my posts!

    February 14, 2013
    • I bought a lot of postcards on my RTW trip (as they were so much better than my own photos) and put them in my photo albums, but never though of scanning them before, good tip!

      February 19, 2013
  6. I think we’re definitely better off with how we travel now, but I miss those days of picking up your photos! It was so exciting! I wouldn’t go back though, even though it was always a thrill- I love snapping away far too much!

    February 14, 2013
    • I used to love collecting my photos – especially when you had a film that had been in the camera for ages and you couldn’t remember what was on it. But then I look at my old photos and the practice was definitely needed!

      February 19, 2013
  7. Things have definately changed, I’ve been travelling for over 30 years and remember sitting surrounded by travel brochures trying to decide where to go. Now, you just hop on the internet and the world is your oyster.

    February 15, 2013
    • When I was a child I used to love going through travel brochures and cutting out photos of exotic places – the travel bug started early!

      February 19, 2013
  8. A super post! Being relatively ancient, my runs the world backpacking trip was way back in 1989. I wonder what a comparison between now and then would be like? Funnily enough, I don’t think it would be very different from your comparison with 2003, which shows just how fast the pace of change has been in the last ten years.

    February 15, 2013
    • A lot of the changes are related to all the new technologies in the last few years – the internet has affected how I do almost everything! Who knows what travel might look like in another 10 years though?

      February 19, 2013
  9. Funnily enough, I was just reading through my diaries of my backpacking trip in 1997-98 and how much waiting around I did checking local post offices for letters from home via post restante. The internet makes everything so much easier.

    I never liked writing postcards so emails and facebook are a much better solution.

    February 15, 2013
    • It’s certainly a lot easier to keep in touch with email and Facebook – I remember being on holidays with a huge pile of postcards I’d promised to send, trying to think of something different to write on them all!

      February 19, 2013
  10. Lucy I enjoyed this travel comparison of yours. Ten years ago I was a freshman year in college and even though I wasn’t a stranger to travel, the thought of traveling for more than one year straight not once crossed my mind. The only thing I’ve done 10 years ago that I still do today is “blogging”, yet back then it was LiveJournal and it was it was so immature and non-personal and not well-thought out posts. haha But oh how times have changed over the years definitely! The postcards is another thing – I still enjoy sending them out to family/friends since 9 years old despite never really receiving any. If you’d like to receive some let me know! 🙂

    February 15, 2013
    • When I came home from my trip my mum had printed out all my emails I sent home and I still have them, so that’s my early version of a paper blog – hopefully I’ve got a bit better at it since then though!

      February 19, 2013
  11. Travel is definitely easier these days (except for security). And I use the internet constantly when I plan a trip. Sometimes it’s a double-edged sword though; travel loses some of its mystery and discovery when you know all the facts, have read all the reviews, and have seen all the pictures before you even go.

    I definitely like having a digital camera instead of film. And I always have, and always will, send postcards.

    February 15, 2013
    • It’s so true that you can be a bit too informed now – I try and stop myself reading too much about a place just before I go there so it’s a bit of a surprise!

      February 19, 2013
  12. Great post! I still send postcards and guess what, I still get them too. I guess me and my friends are a bit old fashioned even though we connect by social media, we still enjoy buying, writing out and mailing postacrds from wherever we visit. I agree, it is easier travelling now. The e-reader has replaced all the books I always dragged along so the weight of my luggage is much less (even with adapters and chargers)

    February 18, 2013
    • I think I’ll start sending postcards again and see if it inspires my friends to too! I’ve just got a Kindle too and absolutely love it – I’m an obsessive reader so it’s definitely cut down on the baggage weight!

      February 19, 2013
  13. It’s amazing how much has changed in 10 years. Hmmm..what will the next 10 years hold? Great post and I agree it appears 2013 has the win, but it’s good to unplug completely for at least a few days, and just be in the moment. Happy travels to the US in April!

    February 20, 2013
    • Thanks, I really need to start finalising my US plans soon – my last-minute planning is where all the last 10 year’s technology comes in useful!

      February 21, 2013
  14. I still buy loads of postcards and miss not receiving any. The children are all on Facetime these days, so no email even!! Great compilation of then and now Lucy 😉

    March 19, 2013
  15. Monikinha #

    Reblogged this on Quero viajar…..e agora?e comentado:
    Awesome post! I agree with all 10!

    March 24, 2013
  16. Great list Lucy, congrats on your success. Definitely agree with your points though especially things like working abroad. Times have changed and so has the way you can work. We can thank the internet for that one.

    April 11, 2013
    • The internet really has made such a difference in so many aspects – I’m in the US at the moment and haven’t has internet access for a couple of days and feel lost when I keep thinking of things I want to look up or maps I want to check, though I guess it’s made me a bit more of a lazy planner!

      April 12, 2013

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. My second year On the Luce | On the Luce

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: